Nox Aurea – Via Gnosis

Nox Aurea are one of my favourite gloomy doom metal bands, combining a funeral doom style with a gothic one on a great debut album Via Gnosis, with seventy minutes of somber dramatic atmospheres, great vocals and musicianship. There’s similarities to the most famous of the gothic doom metal bands Draconian, with both male growls and female clean vocals, but there’s a lot more to the songwriting to make them stand out from the pack in an exceptional first release.

It’s a long album at 70+ minutes long with just nine tracks including the short opener – Opus Draconus has some bleak celestial synth pads to give a melodramatic sense of darkness against some raspy growls in a great piece of moving ambient before moving into the first track proper and one of the best on the album The Funeral Of All. The funeral doom of Shape of Despair runs in the veins of their music, bleak guitars low in the mix in the intro under dark pulsing choral synths and sporadic drums. Production wise it’s not the heaviest album, Nox Aurea focusing on the gloomy sounds from all the dark instrumentals intertwining rather than bringing the darkness through the sheer force of riffs. Some dark and wistful piano brings the gothic influence to the fore, as does the melodic lead guitar, while Jan Sallander’s growls are clear and forceful with a similar sound to Amon Amarth’s Johann Hegg, but with more of the tortured misery to it that befits the genre. There’s soft sections of melodrama with spoken word to soften the thick wall of sound, and it’s half way through the track before we hear the clean vocals of Alice Persell, who’s high semi-operatic vocals are a blend of soft but powerful, with a slight Nordic accent, and she sounds great wherever used, even if sporadically. Overall though it’s a track combining the melodrama of gothic metal with the grim atmospheres of funeral doom to near perfection.

Suffer provides another highlight, with its dark opening riff, both guitars combining to provide both heaviness and pretty, bleak melodies. The synth and piano use is great as ever in inculcating a dark sense of gloom, and when Sallander and Persell start dueting over the beautiful gothic music it’s Nox Aurea at their best, Sallander sounding particularly tortured while Persell injects lots of power in her high notes. Ambient sections of floaty synths and relaxed lead guitar provide a welcome continuation of their textural development within their songs, and some dramatic brass over some fast, aggressive bass takes them from the calm to one of the most aggressive parts of the album. Nights In Solitude is a short interlude for acoustic guitar, string synths and spoken word in a short but texturally impressive piece. Follower Distant Stars is more of a ploddy track with chugged vocals and ambient interludes where the album embraces the gothic sound more than the funeral doom one in a bit of a change of pace.

Lost Amongst the Earth and Sky is another highlight with Percell used a lot more than on most of the other tracks, with Sallander sounding particularly aggressive as the dark synths weave a mournful backdrop along with the powerful doomy riff that serves as a motif for the track to revolve around. The longest track Mother Aletheia at 12 and a half minutes long doesn’t feel close to its length, with a calm ambient opening with gloomy spoken word from both vocalists, before moving into some chuggy goodness in one of the most dramatic parts of the album. Great lead guitar snakes it way through more so than the other tracks, while it constantly changes pace and mood in a great slab of bleakness. The closing title track is another shorter piece, eschewing metal in a piano led track, with some moody flutes and synths to set a calm and mournful atmosphere Percell as the lead vocalist with few growls, bringing some Nordic gloom to end the proceedings.

It would’ve been nice to hear more from Alice Percell as her vocals are stunning, while Sallander’s growls get rather monotone at points, although not used enough to get grating. Her pretty vocals really complete the band’s sound and it’s a joy to hear, but these are the only complaints across the album. Overall though Nox Aurea are one of the best bands in the gothic doom metal field, and with Via Gnosis‘ funeral doom influence, great use of textures in their production, and sense of pacing they’re far more than another beauty and the beast doom band following in the wake of Draconian and a vehicle for a beautiful dose of melancholy on a weary night.

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